Every September for the past decade, Apple has brought together media from around the world for a marketing event celebrating the creative achievements behind its latest iPhone. It highlighted the shine of the phone’s exterior, the molding around its cameras and the power of its processors.
But this year, Apple’s elite designers and engineers adapted their creative process and marketing extravagance to the design requirements of European regulators, who issued a rule that requires USB-C charging for all electronic devices.
On Wednesday, Apple announced that its latest product line, the iPhone 15, will ditch the company’s own Lightning port in favor of the USB-C ports required in Europe. The company’s latest iPhones feature a charging connector that’s slightly larger and rounder than its predecessor, but allows for faster charging.
The scheme aimed to reduce e-waste and save customers money by making a port compatible with a range of devices. Although Apple resisted the change, warning that government regulations could hinder innovation, it makes it possible to use the same USB-C cable that powers a Mac to charge an iPhone.
In addition to the iPhone, the company introduced its wireless earbuds, the AirPods Pro, with a USB-C charging case.
The change shows how regulators are changing Apple’s business. Apple has positioned itself as the primary gatekeeper for more than a billion iPhone users worldwide by developing proprietary hardware and services. To reach these customers, app developers have given the company a cut of up to 30 percent of sales, and accessory makers have paid fees to produce cables with Lightning connectors.
But as concerns grow about tech companies’ power over the global economy, governments have enacted rules and issued warnings forcing Apple to open up. In Europe, a new antitrust law will require Apple to allow the sale of iPhone apps outside of its App Store. In the United States, regulators are investigating the company’s practice of preventing others from doing so using the iPhone’s tap-to-pay feature Capability. And there in China is government action against workers Use of iPhones in the workplace.
The government’s challenges are weighing on Apple at the same time it is trying to get its business back on track. Declining sales of iPads and Macs have triggered the longest slump since 2016. iPhone purchases, which account for more than half of total sales, are slowing. And sales of apps and services could be restricted by government regulations.
“Apple is a victim of its own success and everyone is going for the big goals in technology,” said Mike Frazier, president of Bedell Frazier Investment Counseling, an investment firm in Walnut Creek, California.
In addition to the USB-C port, Apple announced other improvements to the iPhone 15, including better cameras and smaller bezels around the screen. Its two high-end Pro models, starting at $999, feature a lighter titanium body and processors made with a cutting-edge manufacturing process that the company says significantly increases performance. It replaces the mute switch on previous models with a new button that can be pressed to use the phone’s camera or start an audio recording.
The high-end phones also have the ability to record three-dimensional videos that can be viewed in the augmented reality headset that Apple will release next year.
Apple increased the price of the iPhone Pro Max, the company’s top model, by 9 percent to $1,199. The larger phone features the most advanced camera in the range with a 5x optical zoom, contributing to the first price increase for the iPhone range in five years.
The base models of the iPhone 15, which cost $799 and $899, carry over many of the features of last year’s iPhone Pro models, including last year’s processor and Dynamic Island, a toolbar at the top of the screen. The entire iPhone range offers wireless charging.
“This is disappointing,” said Gene Munster, managing partner at Deepwater Asset Management, an investment and research firm based in Minneapolis. “But for the average person with a three- to four-year-old phone, that’s enough to upgrade.”
Apple complemented the new iPhone lineup with updates to its Apple Watch offerings. An updated processor and software developments allow wearers of the latest watch, the Series 9, to answer phone calls with a double tap of their thumb and forefinger. The company touted the watch as its first carbon-neutral product, saying it would be made with 100 percent clean energy, carbon offsets and smaller packaging to reduce emissions associated with shipping the product.
The Apple Watch Ultra, aimed at outdoor enthusiasts, has a brighter screen and a longer height range. It also offers new possibilities for cyclists who want to connect it to other performance measurement devices.
Apple unveiled the products in Cupertino, California, at the Steve Jobs Theater, the 1,000-seat underground auditorium on the company’s campus. The venue was packed with journalists and staff. Millions more tuned in online to see the commercial Apple had created for its new products.
Apple CEO Tim Cook used the iPhone event to remind customers of his new augmented reality headset, which the company unveiled in June ahead of its release next year.
But even after the headset is released next year, the iPhone will continue to drive Apple’s business. The company sells more than 200 million iPhones annually and earns around $200 billion.
Although sales of its marquee device are down slightly this year, that is The iPhone has expanded its dominance of the smartphone market. It has increased its share of overall smartphone sales worldwide. The device now accounts for more than 50 percent of smartphones sold in the U.S., up from 41 percent in 2018, according to Counterpoint Research, a technology company.